CHOOSING A REPLACEMENT

Peter looked around the room at the crowd. What seemed like such a large space for a meal with Jesus was now crammed with His followers.

A man stood at the door searching until he saw Peter and John. He marched up to them. “I have news of Judas.”

“He hanged himself. We know.”

The man shook his head. “His body fell. He burst open all over the field. The priests are using the money he returned to buy that field to bury the poor and unknown.”

Peter placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Thank you for letting us know.”

The days turned into weeks with nothing new. They sang Psalms to pass the time.

A few lines stood out in Peter’s mind. Then another one brought a thought to him.

Peter tried to not think about them, but they wouldn’t leave.

Peter stood and spoke over the din of the crowd.

“As you know Judas Iscariot was with us the entire time of Jesus’s ministry until he led those who arrested Jesus. David spoke of him in the Psalms when he wrote, ‘Let his dwelling be desolate, let nobody live in it.’ David also wrote. ‘Another shall take his office.’

“There are some among us who have been with us from the baptism by John until Jesus’s ascension to heaven. We should at this time fill the number of us back to twelve. Let’s find a man qualified to take Judas’s place as a witness to Jesus’s resurrection.”

People looked at each other. Conversations grew.

Andrew raised a hand. “I propose Joseph, also called Barsabas, surnamed Justus. He’s followed us the whole time.”

Matthew stood. “Matthias has also been with us to help as needed. He’s a good candidate as well.”

Heads nodded. Conversations added comments about events how each man aided Jesus and His disciples.

Peter held a hand up and waited for silence. “Are there any others who qualify?”

After a long silence Peter continued. “Very well then, we’ll cast lots to determine who will be counted among us. Let’s pray for God’s guidance first.”

Everyone who was sitting stood. They all closed their eyes.

Peter prayed. “Lord of all. You know how Judas fell away to lead men to take your Son. Now that he’s gone we need Your wisdom to guide us to the best replacement. You know every person’s heart. Show us who You want to take Judas’s place.”

Someone stepped forward with the lots. “An odd number will be in favor of Joseph, even for Matthias.”

He cast them to the floor. “Eight.”

A cheer rose as men slapped Matthias on the back.

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The choosing of Matthias is the first recorded event of the Apostles after the ascension of Jesus. It’s the only thing they did, other than prayer and waiting, before the giving of the Holy Spirit to them.

I find it interesting that only two men are brought up for the vote to replace Judas. The qualifications were basic enough: they needed to have been with the group of Jesus’s followers from His baptism to His resurrection. Only two stood outside the circle of twelve as witnesses to the miracles and parables, the teachings and the confrontations.

The crowd was recorded to have dwindled significantly after Jesus talked about people needing to eat His body and drink His blood. The final meal in the upper room showed them the true meaning of that statement.

How torn were Joseph and Matthias when the crowd walked away shaking their heads that day?

They apparently held their ground to follow the Messiah no matter what He said. Only two men.

Fortunately only one was needed. Prayer was used before lots were cast to determine who God wanted to take Judas’s place.

But, was this the man God actually chose as the twelfth Apostle?

I think when the twelve thrones are filled to judge the twelve tribes of Israel Matthias won’t be on one of them.

I think it will be a man who wasn’t even near that room that day. As a matter of fact that room is the LAST place Saul would have wanted to be that day.

God’s choice was being groomed in an unexpected way as they waited for the Holy Spirit to be given.

Saul’s passion was to end this sect called “The Way” then.

God let that passion burn until Jesus stepped in on his way to Damascus.

After the Holy Spirit entered Saul his passion did a 180 degree turn as he became their chief spokesperson and missionary.

The transformation was so dramatic he changed his name to Paul.

Jesus never told His followers to replace Judas. He merely told them to wait in Jerusalem.

This choosing was their idea. Fortunately it was a harmless one since God will sort out who sits where in the kingdom to come.

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Have you ever walked ahead of God in a matter?

Did you fill a ‘need’ that you later discovered wasn’t necessary?

Was your choice for an office not vetted enough before you filled a vacancy?

If you’re expecting a guaranteed formula for discovering God’s will in every matter I’m afraid you came to the wrong blog.

My life is filled with too many mis-steps and wrong choices to hold that promise for you.

I will tell you that we have a huge advantage that the people in that room didn’t have. We have the Holy Spirit’s guidance and a more complete scripture than they had.

The New Testament is chocked full of guidelines and wisdom that hadn’t been written then.

Prayer is always an important element in discovering God’s will, but it must be tempered with the Bible’s wisdom and guidance.

Too many people pray about a matter without leaning on biblical insight for their situation. If they feel a peace about what they decide to do then they follow that course of action.

This life isn’t about our happiness or peace. It’s about becoming more like Jesus Christ.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

The 2nd letter to Theophilus

Luke paced his study. The new parchments arrived ahead of schedule. Notes were organized and waiting.

Winter was settling in so travel for the next few months was out of the question. Time was on his side now.

“Why is it always difficult to begin a writing? I know once I get into this it will flow. Is it fear, or something more sinister?”

He stared at the parchments, again.

“Theophilus would love to know more. He must know what happened next. That’s it…a letter to my friend. It worked before.”

Luke grabbed a parchment and unrolled it on the table. He sighed at the blank paper before him. The cork on the ink was pulled before another thought could entertain his mind off this task. A fresh quill was soon in his fingers.

I merely began to write to you, O Theophilus, of the things Jesus taught and did while He was with us. He continued to command His chosen apostles until He was taken up. Jesus showed Himself for forty days after His sufferings. The proofs are undeniable. He taught them of the coming kingdom right up till the end.

On His last day he assembled them together and commanded them to remain in Jerusalem until the Father gave the gift.

“John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit from on high soon.”

“Will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They asked.

“It’s not for you to know the time. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you not many days from now. Be My witnesses in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After Jesus said this He lifted in the air until a cloud came down and engulfed him. His followers stared in amazement.

Suddenly two men dressed in white stood with them. “Why are you looking up. Jesus will return in like manner.”

The Apostles left the Mount of Olives and returned to Jerusalem.

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So begins Dr. Luke’s second letter preserved in our Bibles today. Some older versions call it The Acts of the Apostles. Most people refer to this book simply as Acts.

I’m beginning this new study for two reasons: 1. I can’t think of anything else to concentrate this blog on, and 2. I’ve never done an in-depth study of this book. Please pray for wisdom for me as I conquer this task of presenting application of this strange twist of history that followed Jesus’s followers after His ascension.

Few argue that Luke, a physician by trade, wrote this account along with the gospel account that bears his name. Parts of it are autobiographical since he traveled with Paul on some of his missionary journeys.

Most writers I know, including myself, struggle with the beginning of a writing project. That’s why I began this post as I did.

The importance of this record would have weighed heavily on Luke. His attention to detail came in extremely handy in bringing this book into being.

We owe a debt of gratitude to him for his tenacity in bringing us this historical narrative to help us understand the birthing of God’s new church.

His gospel account mentions eyewitnesses to what happened. I have no doubt Mary was one of his interviewees as he wrote that account. Aren’t we glad he did since she gave us so much of what we know of the Christmas story? Matthew added Joseph’s side of that episode.

Both of Luke’s books are addressed to an interesting individual. Theophilus is only mentioned at the beginning of these two books.

By definition theophilus means “lover of God.” This may have been an actual person or a specific type of person.

Letters were passed around from one church to another at the time Luke wrote this and Paul and others wrote most of the letters that make up the New Testament today. So, by addressing this to lovers of God Luke may have included anyone interested in reading this to know more of God and His dealings with his people after Jesus left this planet.

Since you’ve read this far into this post I assume you love God, so let’s spend our attention on lessons meant for us by the events that laid the foundation of our relationship with God while we walk on earth.

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Luke begins this letter as he ended the gospel account, with the ascension of Jesus. Why did he repeat the same event and why do they almost sound like different events when you read them side-by-side?

He knew there would be people who wouldn’t have read the gospel. That’s why he wrote about it again here. That event was the turning point of the Apostles’ lives. With Jesus no longer physically present they were left leaderless until the Holy Spirit was given to them.

The accounts are about the same event from a different perspective. Like two eyewitnesses telling of something from their viewpoint of the same event. It could sound like different things when they’re actually the same thing.

I find it interesting that a cloud is mentioned in Jesus’s ascension. A student of the Old Testament will recognize what that represents.

Clouds showed up at important times in Jewish history.

A cloud covered Mt Sinai when Moses received the Ten Commandments and other times he talked with God.

A cloud also led the Hebrews through the desert and into the promised land at that time.

A cloud filled the temple when Solomon dedicated it right after the first one was built.

Clouds cloaked the presence of God so people wouldn’t be able to see Him.

This cloud was God receiving His Son back to heaven because His duties on earth had been fulfilled at that time.

The angels told the Apostles that Jesus will return on a cloud. Interesting coincidence I’d say.

I’m looking forward to that cloud’s appearing.

Then Jesus’s kingdom will finally begin.

It’s about time!

I’ll see you later.   Wade